River guards to cruise with 'SMART' law enforcement along the Mekong
'SMART' is currently being piloted globally in selected sites where WWF is supporting enforcement efforts in conservation. One of these sites is a 180 km stretch along the Mekong River from Siphandone, at the border with Laos PDR where the Mekong River enters Cambodia, to Stung Treng, to Kratie (henceforth, SSK Landscape). At this site, WWF's SSK Landscape supports river guards from the Commission for Mekong River Dolphin Conservation and Ecotourism Development (Dolphin Commission) and Fisheries Administration (FiA) in establishing and maintaining environmental law enforcement.
"With surrounding rapid development and an increase of human activities threatening this landscape of biodiversity hotspots and critically endangered wildlife species, enforcement work would also need to catch up through continuous development and capacity-building, via the integration of useful and innovative tools like SMART," said Saber Masoomi, SSK Landscape Manager of WWF Cambodia, at a 3-day 'SMART' workshop customised for 22 river guards and their counterparts in the Forestry Administration (FA) and Ministry of Environment (MoE). Participants learned how to use the 'SMART' tool in the context of the riverine landscape.
"Looking forward, the 'SMART' tool would come in as a cornerstone of an integrated landscape law enforcement plan (as part of a holistic landscape conservation plan) that would involve the inputs and commitment of WWF and government partners in FiA, FA, Dolphin Commission and Ministry of Environment," Saber Masoomi added.
The workshop was graced by His Excellency Touch Seng Tana, Chairperson of the Dolphin Commission, whose presence was not only an encouragement to the river guards but also an affirmation of the need to build up enforcement capabilities.
'SMART' is able to cover a wide range of topics and issues in the work of managing a protected area. For example, it can provide information on the where, how and who of illegal activities in the protected area, through a framework that puts together collected field and intelligence data. At the same time, it has been designed to be user-friendly and easy to understand, so that enforcement teams on the ground with limited technical knowledge can still use it effectively.
"The motivation and interest shown by the participants was impressive. We know that the 'SMART' tool is a powerful one, but seeing such high interest level signals how the framework of using 'SMART' is also very engaging and easy to integrate into current work practices of environmental law enforcement. This is an encouragement for us to continue building capacity amongst the river guards and other enforcement agencies working in protected areas," Thibault Ledecq, Conservation Programme Manager at WWF-Cambodia remarked.
An example of a key output produced during the training includes a patrolling map that the river guards learned to put together, based on their previous patrolling data and using the 'SMART' tool for further analysis.
Building on the provided capacity, WWF and Dolphin Commission will develop a plan to implement SMART in enforcement activities. Specifically, WWF will continue to provide technical support to these activities through a representative assigned to be the 'SMART' focal point for this riverine landscape.
More about 'SMART'
Created by a consortium of conservation organisations that support government enforcement agencies in effective monitoring of protected areas, including WWF, SMART is a user-friendly tool for protected area managers as well as frontline field staff, and is expected to enhance capabilities in the evaluation of enforcement work. Evaluation is integral to measuring the success of enforcement activities and, in turn contributes to improved strategies and action plans for enhancing conservation.
At the ground level, SMART can help to optimise important data collected from the field by rangers. These would include detailed and critical information such as the GPS locations where wildlife were spotted, sites of damage and points of illegal entry, and accounts of tip-offs given about the trading of wildlife, amongst other information important for understanding the movement of wildlife and details about existing threats to them.
By enabling mangers of protected areas to customise data organisation, it lends flexibility to analysing collected data and information, and hence allows a monitoring and evaluation system that better fits each unique protected area.
For more information and to download the software, please visit: http://smartconservationsoftware.org/